What is the Carmelite family?
A group of hermits gathered together in the early 1200s on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land to search for God, to form community, and to help pilgrims and crusaders. From these simple beginnings the Carmelite Order has spread throughout the world and has grown many branches. We call all these branches ‘the Carmelite family.’
When Europeans lost control of the Holy Land, those first hermits left Mount Carmel for Europe. There they soon adapted their Rule to the new Mendicant (itinerant preachers) Movement and became friars (brothers) like the newly-founded Franciscan friars, Dominican friars, and Augustinian friars. All the members of the male branch of the Carmelite Order are friars and they are active in many public ministries. Please note that both the ordained men (priests) and the non-ordained men are called friars.
In the mid-1400s, Blessed John Soreth, Prior General of the Order, opened the Order to women. Some of these women gathered into cloistered (enclosed) communities focused on prayer. These enclosed communities are called monasteries or ‘Carmels’ and these cloistered women are called ‘nuns.’
For more information about the nuns, visit https://ccacarmels.org
At the same time some of these women gathered into active communities with public ministries like teaching, healthcare, and working with the poor. These active women professed the same vows but are called ‘sisters’ rather than ‘nuns.’
For more information about the sisters, visit http://www.carmelitesisters.com
Simultaneously lay members of the Church, whether single or married, began to follow the Carmelite pattern of prayer and ministry in their daily lives while living in their own homes. This branch of the Order is called the ‘Lay Carmelites.’
For more information about the Lay Carmelites, visit http://laycarmelitespcm.org